The small pinkish human pushes his round glasses back up his button nose and inclines his round-cheeked head, standing between two packed cylinders of silk thread taller than himself. He turns around and disappears through the shimmering portal. Zutroq attaches the silk-filled black cylinders to her carrying rod, which she subsequently hoists up onto her lean upper shoulders. With her lower left arm, she reaches behind her oval head and pulls up her kasa, shielding her eyes and face from the bright suns. The silk continues its journey. Produced on Earth – one of the newest members of the 27

It was mid-week and still too early for paying customers. I was watching the vidscreen at the Stray Cat show programs about Earth, and wishing I’d never left. The mirror above the bar showed Lena circulating in a green silk dress. The matching scarf around her neck marked her available. In the corner sat a couple of Bavarsi, a telepathically-bonded pair who specialised in threesomes. Their scarves were red: they must have been waiting for their patron to turn up. The vidscreen was showing a documentary about sea turtles. It was one of the reasons I liked to work the

The door erupted in an explosion, devouring the six security locks. A small metal canister flew from the freshly made opening in the door. Samantha jumped from the couch as it bounced off the floor once, twice- BANG! A blinding flash of orange light followed the sound. Samantha clutched her face, falling to her knees in disorientation. If anyone said anything she could not hear it over the ringing in her ears. Two sets of hands took a strong hold of her arms and pulled her up. Her blurry eyesight could make out the heavily equipped men in uniform that

CASPER STAR-TRIBUNE FBI BROUGHT IN TO INVESTIGATE WAPITI FIRE AND EXPLOSION Star-Tribune Staff, September 8, 2048. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Denver field office have arrived in Cody to take part in the investigation of the explosion and fire at the Lost Trails Saloon in Wapiti that took the lives of an undetermined number of people last Wednesday evening. Park County Sheriff Neal Stewart described the FBI presence as a welcome addition to the local and state team that is seeking to unravel the causes of the mysterious event, the deadliest in Western Wyoming since the 1940s. As

The calm before the storm. That’s what Captain Belcheck called it; the peaceful moments that occurred as two vessels soundlessly drifted around each other, waiting for the long cannons to come into range. Halson watched the enemy Cray elegantly glide around a large nimbus clouds. They were close enough to see the crew, scurrying around the rigging like tiny ants among the fragmented steel plates. It was a rather common rule to never start firing until you could tell what your enemy was wearing. Captain Belcheck rarely followed the rules though. Two of the port sniper cannons were being loaded

“Ain’t no job for a lady, that.” The man who spoke typifies the kind of south of the river sleaze-on-the-make that I spend the best part of my days trying to avoid. I stand beside the little red and white tent, hands on hips, eyebrow arched with dangerous intent. He wavers on the edge of the pavement, wondering whether to continue with this conversation or to quit while he is ahead. I don’t try to deny what I do for a living, though it may be a little difficult to hide sometimes; the thigh length waders and heavy-duty gloves are

Q It used to be considered as a disease. Parents told about abnormalities in the amniotic fluid would weep inconsolably, and consider the option of a late termination, fully supported by the medical world. Those who believed the presence of life outweighed the ability to endure it bore children into a world they could never truly understand, other than through pain and confusion. As science, and society grew in strength, and illnesses vanished, and the scope of normal was stretched beyond the narrow confines of the 19th century, which itself was wholly permissive by the standards of the 16th, several

I. Networking Opportunity “How much to be my date to this party?” Paul asked. “Why do you need a date?” Jan countered. “This crowd is so anxiety provoking! Look, not as a real date. On-site stress management companion. Very innovative! Could even be a good networking opportunity for you.” “Not as a real date,” Jan said. She named a number. The party was a silent auction at a modern art gallery in Little Five Points. Paul offered to pick her up, but Jan wasn’t telling him where she lived. Instead she bussed into downtown Atlanta, picked up a dress from

Day One “Who is your Original?” asks the doctor, shining a bright light in your eyes. You blink, glancing left and right. Either side of you are others, blank, damp and hairless like you. Doctors take their temperatures, their blood, their heart-rates. “…I — ” Your tongue feels thick and clumsy in your mouth, like you’ve never used it before. “Who is your Original?” he asks again, lowering his flashlight and peering intensely into your face instead. You feel ashamed for some reason, aware of your paper gown and scrawny forearms. You avert your eyes and shake your head, taking

The exchange took place in a dark alley. The woman watched from the tinted windows of her stretch limousine, licking her lips involuntarily as the package passed from the hands of the dealer to those of her driver. Once it was in his possession, he walked backwards to the limo, in case the man might try something underhanded. The woman willed her driver to walk faster, impatience tugging at her. She’d waited long enough already, bribing and blackmailing and spending a fortune, all to get her hands on that package. Her mouth watered just thinking of it. She didn’t even